Three months before the coronavirus outbreak, researchers simulated a global pandemic






Event 201

It began in healthy looking pigs: a new coronavirus, spreading insidiously within herds.
Farmers were the first to fall victim, succumbing to respiratory illnesses, ranging from mild, flu-like symptoms to severe pneumonia.
Flights were cancelled as the world's sharpest minds searched in vain for a vaccine.
But it was too late. Within six months, the virus had spread around the globe. A year later, 65 million people were dead.
Unlike the most recent coronavirus outbreak, however, you probably haven't heard of this pandemic.
That's because it was all a simulation — developed some three months before Wuhan, China became the epicentre of a global crisis.


A slow response can lead to a large outbreak

The Event 201 scenario — the brainchild of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security — was designed to test our global preparedness in the face of a severe pandemic.
They are quick to note that the simulation was in no way a prediction of the events that would follow it, and the inputs used for modelling the potential impact of the fictional virus are not similar to the current outbreak.


However, according to Dr Eric Toner, who worked on the simulation, there are some parallels.
"Now that the disease is widespread in China, we see the beginning of the cascading economic and societal consequences illustrated in our exercise."
There are also lessons to be learnt from the simulation, Dr Toner says — namely, the need for strong public health infrastructure and rapid action to identify cases, isolate them and trace contacts.
"Countries need to ramp up testing capacity as quickly as possible," he said.
"Furthermore, healthcare facilities should be preparing now to safely treat coronavirus patients while under isolation."



How can we respond?

As more information on the coronavirus comes to light, the advice from health authorities has shifted.
Those who have had any contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus are now being asked to isolate themselves in their homes for 14 days, while those who are infected are being quarantined in hospitals.

While some airlines, including Lufthansa and British Airways, have begun suspending flights to mainland China, services into Australia have not been affected.
"I think the difficulty with this [coronavirus] is that there's so many unknowns," says Dr Katherine Gibney, an infectious diseases physician and medical epidemiologist at the Doherty Institute.
"We're making best guess assumptions based on closely related viruses... that seems to be standing us in pretty good stead, but each day there's new evidence emerging, and so it's inevitable that we're going to have to keep modifying the recommendations that we make."
Unlike many other developed nations, Australia does not currently have a national coordinating body responsible for communicable disease threats.
A national centre for disease control would eliminate the current "ad hoc" approach to preparing for and responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases, according to the Australian Medical Association.

"There's a lot of goodwill put in by the states and territories and no formal strategy," said AMA NT President Dr Robert Parker.
"If you have a national centre for disease control, you know who to ring.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said the strength of current systems and processes "mean the development of a national centre for disease control is not necessary".
"The Australian Department of Health has collaborative arrangements in place with health departments in states and territories for the prevention and control of communicable diseases, including ensuring robust surveillance systems are in place, preparing for emerging disease threats and responding to outbreaks."


Three months before the coronavirus outbreak, researchers simulated a global pandemic Three months before the coronavirus outbreak, researchers simulated a global pandemic Reviewed by Anson Moore on April 04, 2020 Rating: 5

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